AlpineZone Challenge 2006 – Matt Lillard of Magic Mountain

The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Matt Lillard, Marketing Director of Magic Mountain in Londonderry, Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 12/27/2006:

2knees: I love your mountain and I hope it continues to remain open and become more of the force it was in the 1980′s. You arguably have some of the most challenging terrain in Southern Vermont, if not all of Vermont. Was the inclusion of Blackline on the map a precursor to any more top notch expert terrain becoming available?

Matt Lillard: Thanks! With the management change and a renewed commitment to the area we are looking forward to turning Magic Mountain into a truly sustainable area in Southern Vermont.

The Blackline is a great run that we hope can become a signature of what skiing and riding at Magic is all about. To that end we have opened up the area “boundary to boundary” as long as you follow the rules dictated by the “Woods and Unmarked Skiing and Riding Policy”. We are also beginning work on “Northshore” style mountain biking at Magic which brings with it more cleared out wooded areas across the mountain. These areas won’t be marked this season, but we encourage the adventurous skier/rider to seek this terrain out and enjoy all it has to offer. Remember….if you see a set of tracks going into the woods there is probably a good reason for it!

thebigo: Is Timberside lost forever or is there even a remote chance of bringing it back in the future?

Matt Lillard: Currently Timberside (aka. Timber Ridge) is owned by an outside party who has been slowly making improvements to the base lodge and surrounding area. The trails are mowed each year so it is not out of the question to bring it back into Magic control. That said we are focusing all of our efforts and capital on refurbishing Magic’s trails, base area and infrastructure. If Timberside were to come back it would not be for quite some time.

bill ski: I’ve skied for decades but never to Magic. Tried to get there last season, but the rains kept me away, I’m trying to daytrip again. If I like what I see, I’ll bring my family next time. I get the impression that Magic is a lot like MRG in terms of management (laid-back) terrain and snowmaking, but perhaps Magic does more grooming than MRG. What is your grooming strategy? Corduroy everywhere?

Matt Lillard: Magic has been called the Mad River Glen of southern Vermont for some time and it does offer a glimpse of what we are about. Laid-back management and terrain are both important factors in what make up both Magic and Mad River. While I am not privy to the amount of grooming that Mad River actual does (I spend my time at Mad River in the woods and ungroomed terrain), we are making more of an effort to bring our grooming quality up to modern standards. We have made large strides in the past few years and will continue on this path. Our goal is to groom the trails that we normally groom well, but at the same time leave plenty of terrain ungroomed for those seeking to push their limits. We definitely aren’t choosing a “Corduroy everywhere” policy; we just want to offer both types of terrain in an atmosphere that is true to our roots.

MikeTrainor: It seems a lot of new work has taken place at Magic the last few months. I feel like that mountain now has a vision and things are now happening. Can you outline the new changes for this year and what the plan is for the next few years? Thanks.

Matt Lillard: You are correct, we have made lots of changes and upgrades for the 2006-2007 season. We have every intention of continuing that philosophy well into the future.

Changes for the 2006-2007 include:
1) Repainted base lodge
2) Completely renovated bathrooms, both upper and lower levels
3) New
4) New Learning Center director with updated and new programs
5) New paint on the Red Chair lift towers and Green Lift; including sandblasting and priming)
6) New off ramp at the top of the Red Chair
7) Completion of work on the Black Chair to allow it to run at full capacity
8) New ticketing system
9) Completion of the Green Chair lift, formerly known as the Phoenix Chair (Completion expected in mid-January)
10) Refurbished snowmaking systems and the commitment to blow as much snow as possible
11) Renewal of permit to draw water from the local river for snow making
12) Trail cutting for new “Northshore” style mountain bike park during the summer months. It should make for some great tree skiing!

Looking forward we have plans to:
1) Reinstall some type of beginner chair/carpet/surface lift in the beginner area near the Magic Trailside Condos
2) Continue to expand and modernize the snowmaking system, focusing on high efficiency guns.
3) Increase the capacity of the snowmaking pond. We have already secured permits to quadruple the capacity of the current pond.
4) Begin mountain bike operations on select weekends beginning summer of 2007.
5) Complete painting of lifts and towers on Red, Black and Green Chairs.
6) Clear more trees out to increase gladed terrain.

As you can see we have a lot of big plans for the future of Magic!

maplevalleymaster: I heard a rumor that you are trying to make Magic and upscale resort. Is this true and if it is how? And if so, what can we expect for day ticket prices in the future?

Matt Lillard: Fortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth. We love the low key and traditional feel and atmosphere at Magic and have no intention of changing it. Magic is a great place for adventurous skiers, riders and families to get back to the roots of New England skiing. Our only goal is to improve upon Magic’s reliability in terms of snow coverage and to create a sustainable small ski area in southern Vermont.

In regards to the ticket price issue I can’t honestly say that the prices won’t creep up as the years progress. We will never aim to be at the level of some of the mega resorts in the area but we do need to address revenue concerns and ways to fund our long list of improvements. We feel that even with a slight increase in prices we still offer some of the best deals in New England on terrain that is matched by only a few areas.

billski: I like the old-style, winding, narrow trails. I hope you have some and hope you don’t create massive boulevards. I know changes are in store, I look forward to the snowmaking improvements. What won’t you change?

Matt Lillard: All of the things people love about Magic won’t be changing. This includes our classic cut trails, friendly atmosphere and terrain for all abilities levels, especially those that are seeking the some of most challenging terrain in New England.

snobababunny: What’s the deal with the water supply for snow making? Was the pond capacity expanded?

Matt Lillard: Our current water supply is limited, but to be quite honest it really hasn’t been utilized to its full potential the past few seasons due to a myriad of other issues. This season we are committed to making as much snow as the current snowmaking system and water supply will allow (if it ever gets cold!). We have renewed our permit to draw water from the local river, and next summer we have approval to reconstruct the dam which will quadruple the capacity of the current snowmaking pond. Work on the snowmaking system and pond is our primary capital project and will continue well into the future.

billski: I’d love to see more advertising and attention to Magic. Maybe even some more descriptions, more web presence, or more photos. That would help broaden the market to include all of New England. It’s difficult for many folks to justify the trip when there are more formidable mountains nearby. What do you consider your “niche” to be? At this point, I’ll be up this season, when I know the snow is good. Good luck, I really hope you make it. We’ve lost too many good stand-alone areas already.

Matt Lillard: That is what they have hired me to do! Since receiving the questions for the Alpinezone Challenge I have completely redone our website. If you haven’t already, take a look at the new site, It was a much needed upgrade that I believe will help portray a better image of Magic Mountain as well as help drive more skier visits. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to come on board at Magic until the beginning of November so my ability to create a marketing program up to my standards has been put on hold until next season. For this year I will be breathing new life into our grassroots marketing programs and spending my marketing dollars where I think they will have the most effect. We are directing most of our funds into the improvements listed above and to blowing as much snow as possible to provide quality and consistent conditions for our guests.

We believe that we can position Magic to take advantage of an underutilized niche in the southern Vermont skiing/riding market. Without going into too much detail, I believe I can sum up our marketing position with the welcome message on our new homepage;

“Magic Mountain is where skiers and boarders seeking adventure can soar past their limits on some of Vermont’s most challenging and interesting slopes. Here at Magic, our sole purpose is to deliver an authentic New England skiing experience offering classic Vermont-cut trails in a relaxed, intimate and family friendly atmosphere. In offering southern Vermont’s best downhill skiing, riding and tubing terrain, we remember what original Vermont skiing was all about. So will you.

We welcome you to Magic Mountain Vermont.”

snobababunny: Matt, Welcome. All of the Magic Regulars are happy to see the changes and improvements going on at the mountain. I heard that eventually, the true beginner area will be over near the condos again. True? I hope so. What will it look like? Also, will ski lessons be available during the week or just on weekends? I know that this had been a disappointment in years past for friends of mine, but I also understand the supply and demand issues.

Matt Lillard: Thank you! I am very happy to be here and look forward to many years of success at Magic. I hope to meet all of the Magic regulars as the season progresses. I can’t thank you enough for your unending support. Without a dedicated group of faithful skiers and riders we would not be where we are today.

Yes, our plan is to bring back the learning center area near the Magic Trailside condos. As stated above we have yet to decide what type of lift we will be installing in the area.

We will have lessons available during the week this season. We have brought on a new Learning Center director and one of our goals is to create a top notch learning center. As you noted we do have to consider the supply and demand issues so I encourage anyone considering a midweek lesson, or any lesson for that matter, to make reservations in advance. Check the Learning Center section of our website for details.

djspookman: Since I’m new to Magic, and a passholder, I was wondering what the plan is for opening day? (i.e. what trails/lift(s) Along the same lines, what trails do you hope to open up successively as the season progresses? Thanks!

Matt Lillard: DJspookeman, welcome to the Magic family! I hope you will become one of the Magic regulars well into the future. As everyone in the east is experiencing unseasonably warm weather we have had to continually push back opening day. When I first arrived we were shooting for 12/9, but Mother Nature didn’t seem to agree. We have put in some days and nights of good snowmaking and are eagerly anticipating opening day. We will be opening the Red Chair first with top to bottom skiing and riding on ~4 trails including Magic Carpet, Sunshine Corner, Wand and Video Blvd. We also hope to open with Show Off or open it soon after opening. From there we will open up trails as often as Mother Nature, our snowmaking system and a little bit of luck permit. Ideally we will follow the above trails with Medium, Vertigo, Lower Magic Carpet and Talisman.

Finally, I would like to thank the good people at AlpineZone for inviting us to participate in the Ski Area Challenge and all of the members who submitted questions. Please don’t hesitate to find me on your next visit to Magic Mountain; I would love to take some turns with you!

To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: width=